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25 votes

What is the proper definition of a verb?

It's important to draw a distinction between syntax and semantics. In syntax (how words fit together), words are put into "categories" based on the way they fit together with others. If I ...
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22 votes
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Do most languages have the same basic verb tenses?

Short answer: Not at all! Some languages only have two: past and non-past (English, Japanese). Others have past, present, and future (Ancient Greek). Still others have separate "recent" and "distant" ...
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16 votes
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Is a language possible without verbs or without nouns?

It is not possible for there to be a human language that does not have a way of referring to entities, or to predicate states and actions of an entity. If that is what you mean by "noun" and "verb", ...
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14 votes

Is there a name for the type of word that the word, “scarecrow,” is? (a transitive verb conjoined with its object)

This is a specific subtype of exocentric compound. An exocentric compound is one which doesn't inherit the type of either of its constituents: a scarecrow is neither a type of crow nor a type of ...
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13 votes

Does English have [ inchoative aspect ]?

This is a case where we have to distinguish between the ability to express something in a language and the presence or absence of a grammatical structure dedicated to expressing that something. ...
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12 votes

Why does English have progressive aspect but German does not?

In linguistics, “why” is usually a bad question. Actually, in several Indo-European languages the old present tense has died out completely and been replaced by the present participle plus copula. ...
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12 votes
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What is the past tense of 'yeet'?

Although it may be tempting to look back towards Old English prototypes, one has to be aware of the time depth of any neologism. That's why finding the first occurrence is so important. The ...
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10 votes

What is the concept of verb agreement with passive-active level in Hebrew?

Although I haven't heard of the term "degrees of passive/active" before, they are almost certainly talking about the verbal stems. This is a concept indeed alien to Western European (or broader) but ...
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10 votes

Is "imperatives have invisible subjects" a universal?

An interesting, non-exotic, case is German. In the familiar register you can say “geh nach Hause”, “geht nach Hause”, with implicit subject, but you can also say “geh du nach Hause” and “geht Ihr nach ...
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10 votes
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Why is tense obligatory in some languages and not in others?

All human languages allow the expression of distinctions in time reference, so there's always a way to describe the situation that one event precedes another. Some languages do this with special ...
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10 votes

Why is tense obligatory in some languages and not in others?

Ultimately we can't answer why one language grammaticalises tense and why another language doesn't. But what we can say is that all languages have at least one major verbal grammatical category. Tense ...
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8 votes
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Why are the plural and singular first person forms of the verb "go" so different in the Romance languages?

According to Wiktionary (a source I should perhaps have checked before asking), the all- forms ultimately derive from Vulgar Latin alare (attested in the 7th century Reichenau Glosses). This has ...
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8 votes
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Does any linguist honestly believe that nouns and verbs are not universals?

One has to be careful how the words Noun and Verb are understood, if one wants a good answer. Semanticists talk about Entities and Events, and leave Noun and Verb as formal categories, dependent on ...
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8 votes

The origin of the term 'verb'

Our English grammatical terminology is taken from Latin, where in turn it is calqued on Greek. Noun = nomen = onoma literally means “name”; the idea is that a noun is the name of a particular person ...
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8 votes

What is the past tense of 'yeet'?

I have a field sighting of the form "yoten" to report. In January I was involved with the organizing for the big pro-Second-Amendment demonstration in Richmond, VA. One of the central concerns of ...
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8 votes
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Is there a linguistic term for replacing past tense verb with present tense?

Sometimes this phenomenon is known as the narrative present or (especially by Latinists) historical present. Another potential phenomenon going on is that your dialect has developed relative tense. ...
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8 votes
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What is meant by "s/he flies" in Plains Cree dictionary?

In nêhiyawêwin (Plains Cree) and other languages in the family, the "words" are as you say, more like "phrases". The concept of "is" doesn't exist in the same way in ...
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8 votes
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Is there a universal (general) definition of gerund, infinitive and participle?

Not really. "Participle" can be defined pretty reliably as "an inflected form of a verb that acts as an adjective". But the line between a participle and any other adjective ...
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8 votes

Is there a name for the type of word that the word, “scarecrow,” is? (a transitive verb conjoined with its object)

There are actually several of these words in English: "rattlesnake", "crybaby", "scatterbrain", "killjoy", "tattletale", "tumbleweed", etc. ...
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7 votes
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Languages with multiple forms of the verb "to be"

There are many, indeed. AFAIR, most of them have to be in four meanings (which are the same word in English): to be (an object x is a part of set X), e.g. "this is an apple"; to be (an object x has ...
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7 votes

The origin of the term 'verb'

The simplest answer is that the English verbal doesn't come from the English verb. They both have a common root in the Latin verbum, word, but came to English via different routes, and took on ...
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7 votes
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How to detect verb in a sentence where the verb is invisible in the sentence?

This phenomenon is called zero copula. It especially common for third person present tense. I recommend that you read on how this is handled in syntax parsers for Russian or Hindi. It was also an ...
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7 votes

Name for a verb form meaning "feign or pretend to do sth"

As I wrote in a comment, this is one of the functions of the Biblical Hebrew Dt (hitpael) stem, but the two reference grammars I had a look at do not agree on terminology: Waltke and O'Connor (An ...
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7 votes

Why do verbs use 1st singular present active indicative instead of infinitive as the "canonical" or "representative" form in Latin?

Historical accident. Roman (and Ancient Greek) grammarians seem to have thought of verb paradigms somewhat like noun paradigms: the forms of puella "girl" are puella, puellae, etc, and the ...
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7 votes

What is the proper definition of a verb?

Semantically, there are two main functions in language: reference and predication. Some morphological items or words primarily refer to entities in the perceived world, while other items relate the ...
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6 votes
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Why are irregular verbs usually common words?

The forum linked to in the question provides the key points that answer the question. Irregular forms like those asociated with irregular verbs occur frequently in a language. They have to occur ...
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6 votes
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Why can verbal roots in PIE only contain the vowel e?

It's not that PIE roots always contain the vowel e, it's that PIE roots don't contain vowels. This is a common misconception, unfortunately aided by the traditions of IE lexicography. Take a root ...
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6 votes

Why does English have progressive aspect but German does not?

Actually, German has even more ways to express progressive aspect: Ich bin am Gehen (am-Progressiv, it becomes more and more accepted) Ich bin beim Gehen (competitor to am-Progressiv) Ich bin ...
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6 votes
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Participle + indicative of the same verb (gustans gustavi, videns vidi etc.)

This is the grammatical and rhetorical device usually called figura etymologica, but which the ancient grammarians called “derivatio”, where a finite verb (or a participle) is construed with an ...
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